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Hawthorne Bridge rider comes forward to correct “inaccurate depiction of events”

Posted by on May 8th, 2009 at 2:25 pm

“We should also remember that accidents happen, they happen driving, walking, and cycling.”
— Anonymous rider who was involved in a collision on the Hawthorne Bridge

The man who was involved in a horrific crash on the Hawthorne Bridge on Wednesday has come forward with his version of how it happened.

The eyewitness account of the collision has sparked a lot reaction from the community. The BTA has just published their perspective on the crash, saying “This is the most gruesome consequence of bike congestion and bad behavior to have come to our attention.”

Now, the man who an eyewitness referred to as “riding like an idiot” wants to set the record straight.

He contacted us via email and asked to remain anonymous because he’s an “active member of the cycling community” and he claims there has been “false and damaging information published about my cycling behavior.”

Here is his email:

I would like to address a few things about this very eloquent, but inaccurate depiction of the events that took place two days ago on the Hawthorne.

As I got on the bridge my average rate of speed was faster than the aggregate. The entire time I was riding on the bridge I had stayed on a trajectory hugging the left edge of the path as safely possible. As I passed cyclists and pedestrians I gave a “left” call before committing to moving ahead of those people to the right of me.

Story continues below

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As I came up on a woman, she was riding just to the right of the middle of the path. There was a person that I would estimate walking 15-20 feet directly ahead of the woman. As I came up riding to the left of her, I again called out “left” before committing to moving in front of her while staying on my same trajectory. When I was parallel with her handle bars she turned her bicycle to the left and our handle bars slightly hit each other. I was able to ride through. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the woman was wobbling and her trajectory was moving to the left, crossing the path which I had just crossed.

[Note: The eyewitness account stated that, “Because the woman was riding about two feet from the edge of the sidewalk, the guy moved to the middle.”]

She then hit the grate and the car stopped just before a large collision as [the witness] describes. Now I can understand how he perceives me riding to the right of the women in the middle of the path. The woman did end up on the road, which was to her left. But their was no force coming from her right pushing to the left, as I was completely to the left on the same trajectory I had been the entire ride over the Hawthorne.

I just want to remind people, as they read about this story, it is easy to see the aftermath of a horrible accident and assume, which then becomes a belief, what happened to create the critical point where trajectories change and accidents happen. We should also remember that accidents happen, they happen driving, walking, and cycling. One incident viewed by a person with poor understandings of the events is no reason to discourage people from cycling.”

The eyewitness said, “[The rider] deserves whatever punishment or lawsuit that he gets. There was absolutely no need for him to ride the way he did, none whatsoever.”


UPDATE:
The woman who crashed contacted us with this update on her condition:

“I was discharged from the ER late Wednesday night – thanks to a crew of loving friends and a fantastic GF, I’m doing okay. The damage totals 17 stitches in various places on my face, two elbow staples, a ton of scrapes and bruises and a face so swollen my mom may not recognize me. Still, though, no broken bones and no organ damage. My brain is fine, although my memory of the incident and the following 6 hours are hazy.

I think I’m going to browse new helmets online. The old one is definitely retired.”

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cyclist
Guest
cyclist

There’s no such thing as an accident.

Steve Hoyt-McBeth
Guest

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has organized a bike safety event for this afternoon and Monday, May 11th from 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. on the south path of the Hawthorne Bridge.

The event will be to encourage safe riding by cyclists and courteousness by all path users.

We will be giving out bike bells to cyclists and pedometers to pedestrians.

If one slows down from 15 mph to 10 mph, it will take 36 more seconds to cross the bridge.

Steve Hoyt-McBeth
Guest
Patrick
Guest
Patrick

If it not safe to pass–don’t pass (in a car or bike). Which side he passed is of little consequence if he caused an accident.

BURR
Guest
BURR

regardless, you shouldn’t be passing other cyclists while they are simultaneously overtaking and passing pedestrians.

I specifically avoid the evening rush on the Hawthorne for the following reasons:

cyclists overtaking other cyclist too close on the left with or without audible warning. If I can reach over and touch you, you are passing too closely.

Cyclists overtaking other cyclists on the right usually without any audible warning.

Cyclists overtaking other cyclists and pedestrians at the same time.

To all the speed demons out there, including the anonymous cyclist quoted above – slow down! and get a bell and learn how to use it. I’d say less than 10% of cyclists on the bridge give any audible warning when passing, and a bell should be the preferable method of warning, verbal statements are often hard to hear or understand.

peejay
Guest
peejay

Great. I appreciate the efforts made by PBOT to do some educational outreach in an effort to improve the situation on the Hawthorne Bridge.

Like all educational efforts, it can only go so far, however. Better design and increased capacity would do so much more.

As for the rider’s story, it’s much more believable than the initial story yesterday, and fits with my experience in four years of daily crossings of that bridge. I’d say there’s still some share of blame on both parties, but usually the one passing has a much greater responsibility.

People need to be alert, and to assume that nobody else is paying attention.

Paul Tay
Guest

“As I got on the bridge my average rate of speed was faster than the aggregate.”

Sounds to me like a violation of the speed-too-fast-for-condition rule.

Ethan
Guest

God knows I have yelled “left” and had walkers and riders actually turn left towards me. Makes me wonder if the rider who went down knew the convention.

I am curious how much faster he was going than the “aggregate”. He makes it sound like he was going slow enough that his passing was a decision, not a forgone conclusion. If he was moving substantially faster, that fundamentally alters the closure rate, distance perception when he calls out “left”, and response time for both parties if things go south. If he was going like a bat out of hell, his trajectory and verbal warnings are not enough to mitigate the compression of all other factors.

Ted Buehler
Guest
Ted Buehler

The easy solution is to close the right hand lanes of the bridge during the spring/summer months when traffic is high. Use the plywood that they have for the Providence Bridge Pedal and tie it down for the summer, with some non-stick surface. Leave it on from May 1 to Sept 30.

It’s ridiculously dangerous as-is. A high drop to a steel grate is not an easy fall to handle under any circumstances.

Ted Buehler

L
Guest
L

So he went for the pass on the left even though he could see that she would have to move left at the same to move around the pedestrian?

Also, why is “trajectory” such a fixation with this person. He wasn’t an asteroid in space. It seems that he could have simply reduced his speed and passed when there was more room 8 seconds later.

Matt G
Guest
Matt G

We have an eyewitness account, and now we have an account from a party directly involved. Until I hear the other party’s account, there’s not much more to do here than continue speculating.

When will we hear the injured party’s side of the story?

jvandub
Guest
jvandub

You people need to pick up the pace. I ride my bike to get around quickly as opposed to walking. Slow and sunny day bike riders should be required to walk their bikes across the bridges. This would solve the problem of safety hazards caused by slow and amateur riders.

L
Guest
L

Who let the trolls out? Please ignore jvandub.

Burk
Guest
Burk

Anonymous aggressive bike dude, Slow Down!

If this was a ski slope the ski patrol would kick you off the mountain.

If you are overtaking a slower rider it is YOUR responsibility to pass with all due care. Just bellowing “on your left” as you shoulder your way through the congestion doesn’t absolve you of all responsibility.

DJ Hurricane
Guest
DJ Hurricane

Why is it that you folks who are typing comments saying “Slow down” think people are actually going to slow down?

Do you think those people riding fast are going to slow down if you say it to them on the brige, also?

BURR
Guest
BURR

maybe it’s time to start bumping some of the unsafe passers onto the grating.

buzz
Guest
buzz

I said it yesterday and I will say it again today. The Hawthorne Bridge is not that long. If the bike traffic is slow (and there are pedestrians as well), deal with it and wait until you get across the bridge and have substantially more room to pass. Doing this will, at best, make you lose about two minutes of your commute.

Just thank your lucky stars that you do not have to commute by car on the Sunset Highway every day at rush hour.

Rixtir
Guest
Rixtir

Three possibilities for what happened, according to the accounts we have so far:

1) Aggressive cyclist buzzed other cyclist so close that their handlebars grazed as he passed. Same thing as when a car buzzes and clips a cyclist.

2) Faster cyclist overtook slower cyclist, who then suddenly swerved into him, and their handlebars grazed. One of the two main explanations drivers offer for why they hit cyclists. Regardless of the explanation, if the faster cyclist was driving a car, we’d have a potential violation of ORS 811.065, Unsafe passing of person operating bicycle. And we’d all be saying “if you can’t make a safe pass, wait until it’s safe.”

3) Aggressive cyclist passed a little too close; other cyclist attempted to avoid pedestrians ahead just as faster cyclist was passing, and their handlebars grazed. Fault still lies with the cyclist who passed too close and failed to keep a proper lookout.

jvandub
Guest
jvandub

DJ I’d just say “catch me.”

Rixtir
Guest
Rixtir

jvandub, you just say the same things a-hole drivers say.

jvandub
Guest
jvandub

I still think they should get off their bikes and walk just like on the Sellwood bridge. Slow bicyclists that is.

Rixtir
Guest
Rixtir

Like I said, jvandub…

Hart
Guest
Hart

Also, why is “trajectory” such a fixation with this person. He wasn’t an asteroid in space. It seems that he could have simply reduced his speed

My thoughts exactly.

k.
Guest
k.

I’m really amazed at the how many people are comfortable speculating exactly what happened without having been there. If you really don’t have anything constructive to add, maybe you shouldn’t say anything.

L
Guest
L

IGNORE THE TROLL.

Also, why isn’t speculation given two sides of the story not constructive?

Hart
Guest
Hart

One person denies any fault, and another lays all the blame. Eye witness accounts are not reliable.

Alexis
Guest
Alexis

Why does bicycling have to be a race? You know why bicycling is better than walking, for my commute? Whether or not it’s faster, it’s EASIER. That’s my main concern. When I bike home (which is rarely before 6 on weekdays) I like to go at a comfortable, easy pace. I am very new to bike riding. I’m in lame shape. It’s getting much easier for me to go faster and to take go up the hills on my way to work, but if I had to pant and sweat across the bridge the commute would just suck (and make me tired before I start going up the hill). I stay out of people’s way as a slow rider.

You know what it would do if we had to walk our bikes? Make us MORE IN THE WAY. We’d just take up more space, go slower, and be more of a pain in your butt. I’m not a slow rider because I want to be in your way. Maybe be a little more considerate? I’m sorry that I don’t wear spandex shorts to bike to work. My bike commute is about two miles. It’s easy. I’m not hardcore. But to say (basically) that I should just drive instead because I’m in YOUR way is pretty rude.

Biking your commute is not supposed to be some exclusive club. It’s not just for people who are already super fit. How is a new commuter supposed to GET fit if they’re not ‘allowed’ to commute when they’re slower? Bicycling is good for this city and it should be encouraged, even in people like me who aren’t speed demons.

Andres
Guest
Andres

I remember I once ate it trying to rub my front tire with someone else’s back tire.. but not on a metal grate.

k.
Guest
k.

Speculation is rarely helpful because it is just that…speculation. It’s a guess or conjecture of what happened with out sufficient evidence or proof.

All I’m saying is lots of people jump to conclusions based on personal biases and it’s rarely ever that helpful in these situations.

G
Guest
G

I didnt read where the cyclist denies all of the fault. In fact the only opinion is at the bottom of the post about with regards to accidents and not discouraging cycling.

Anonymous 2
Guest
Anonymous 2

Anonymous Rider is being disingenuous. Calling out “left” is useless if done too late. The rider he is passing has no time to react properly if he/she can even hear his call what with car/wind noise factors.

The bottom line: he shouldn’t have been passing.

He’s at fault.

NB
Guest
NB

For those who are worried about “speculation,” let’s ignore the eyewitness account from yesterday. (Yes, we all know eyewitnesses aren’t very accurate.) So soley based on what the Anonymous Cyclist (AC) has written in (above), what he did was try to pass another rider who he knew would also be trying to pass a pedestrian in less than 20 ft. That’s incredibly unsafe – on the Hawthorne Bridge, whether we like it or not, the right “lane” is preferential to pedestrians. If there is a pedestrian on your right, you yield the right lane and occupy the left lane until you have passed the pedestrian. If you are riding and you anticipate that a rider in front of you is going to have to move left, you SLOW DOWN and yield to the other rider. This is not rocket science, but I do see a lot of riders who are in a hurry to overtake everyone else and pass unsafely. It’s like driving – you don’t pass unless the road ahead is clear for a specified distance, and 15-20 feet is definitely not enough space for you to get clear of someone who will have to move into your lane. I agree with the previous comments about AC’s “trajectory” – it’s irrelevant, and he needed to yield the way to other riders. Also, it’s unsafe to go “faster than the aggregate” in a high traffic area with limited roadway. Personal riding speeds lose out to the general safety of everyone else.

mabsf
Guest
mabsf

If the female biker hit the anonymous ride by veering a little left, he most likely passed her too closely.
Perhaps we should give ourselves the same 3 feet we expect cars to give us while passing.

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

Anonymous rider….even doing something like shooting an unsafe gap in a road race is going to get yer ass verbally chewed on by fellow riders….time to start thinking a little more about your actions and how they could effect others. You had no idea of the woman’s stability, agility, or nervousness while riding a bike…you assumed she could handle a close pass…she couldn’t. You were wrong, no matter what you or the eye witnesses say…

Kevin Wagoner
Guest

I typically ride across the Steal Bridge crossing on my commute. It is not uncommon to see near misses there. The Hawthorne is no different and and the Sellwood is miserable.

We (cyclist) do need to self police ourselves and be careful.

Sara
Guest
Sara

This story doesn’t make much sense to me. If the bridge was crowded, I’m not sure how the cyclist who was hit could have been to the right of the middle. Him passing on the left when there was a pedestrian ahead doesn’t make sense, and her hitting him, then “wobbling” off the road doesn’t make sense to me either.

I understand that eye-witness accounts are suspect for a number of cognitive reasons, but the same holds true for a participant of the traumatic event. I hope others step forward with their accounts of the event so that we can try to aggregate the stories to reach a conclusion for what may have happened.

Either way the anonymous cyclist doesn’t sound at all repentant, and I am sickened that he is now saying that *she* hit *him*.

Sara
Guest
Sara

Also, shouting “left” doesn’t give the person time to process that words are being spoken. Shouting “on your left” is preferable because the passee is likely able to start listening once you’ve gotten to “on the”, assuming you’re in audible range. While I personally prefer being passed with an “on your left” to a bell, I suppose a bell is even better for audibility.

are
Guest
are

a shared sidepath is by definition difficult, and like it or not you have to slow down for congestion. a technique from vehicular cycling might be useful here: if you see a cyclist trying to overtake in a situation in which it will not be safe, move left to prevent his overtaking. sounds discourteous, but at least no one ends up dropping onto the steel grate in front of moving cars.

bobcycle
Guest
bobcycle

Interesting… a bike hits a bike and the safety blitz begins. Not a bad response but when are we going to start the blitz to educate auto drivers? its them not other cyclists that are scary to me.

BURR
Guest
BURR

NOw I’m actually curious if ‘anonymous cyclist’ actually stopped at the scene after the accident, or continued on his merry way while watching the rest of this drama unfold in his rear view mirror? (in which case hit-and-run laws would most likely apply?)

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

Jonathan, I think you should have considered whether it was worth protecting the identity of your source here.

If BURR is correct, the cyclist may very well have left the scene of an accident. Would you grant the same favor of anonymity to the driver of a car who did the same thing?

Protecting sources is a very slippery slope, especially when you’re talking about potentially criminal acts. I fear for subpoenas and lawyers heading your way.

old&slow
Guest
old&slow

That sounded like a pretty rational response from the cyclist involved in the accident. And yes, there are accidents. By all accounts he stuck around so this wasn’t some “hit and run”. There are different speeds on the bridges here and I don’t have to ride at the speed of the slowest person. That doesn’t make me or this person a “reckless bike rider”. Hopefully this will not happen often but everyone doesn’t have to “walk or ride at the slowest pace” across the bridges or anywhere else.

coyote
Guest
coyote

The passing vehicle ALWAYS has the ultimate responsibility for the safety of the encounter. Doesn’t matter if you are walking, riding, sailing, driving, or flying, it is your responsibility. Spin it any way you want, but the crash would not have happened if you were moving the same speed as traffic, you choose to pass, you are on the hook to make sure that interaction was safe.

naomi
Guest
naomi

It sounds like a combination of the “on your left!” yell spooking the girl who crashed as well as him trying to pass on her left with her already in the process of moving left to get around the pedestrian. In either case, it sounds like he’s still to blame.

The Hawthorne bridge sucks though! It’s for bike tourists and helmet wearers and other amateurs in silly bike/clown gear.

Donna
Guest
Donna

Unless the shout of “LEFT” is shrieked in the highest pitches of a 3 year old child, there’s no away I would be able to hear it over the wind and motor noise on the bridge. I can hear bells, however.

My little hearing deficit has an unusual cause, but the inability to hear lower pitches in the presence of constant sound (the wind and cars) is not uncommon. It would be safe to assume that many bicyclists and pedestrians can’t hear you when you shout. However, most people who are not in cars will be able to hear a bell most of the time.

If you don’t use a bell, don’t be surprised (or upset) when people don’t get out of your way even when they can.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

We just got an email from the victim in this crash:

“I was discharged from the ER late Wednesday night – thanks to a crew of loving friends and a fantastic GF, I’m doing okay. The damage totals 17 stitches in various places on my face, two elbow staples, a ton of scrapes and bruises and a face so swollen my mom may not recognize me. Still, though, no broken bones and no organ damage. My brain is fine, although my memory of the incident and the following 6 hours are hazy. Some very lovely commenters wanted an update, so I figured I’d oblige. If they contact you directly, you may give my name and email address, but that’s about all I’d like to have happen.

I think I’m going to browse new helmets online. The old one is definitely retired.

joe
Guest
joe

with respect to the eye witness accounts – it makes a big difference, to me, whether the anonymous cyclist was passing on the left or right. there is an understood lane speed on the bridge like there is on any highway – the further left, the faster. if the anonymous cyclist was on the left; seems to mitigate the behavior.

if the victim in this wobbled to hit the passing cyclist, it is a different story.

I have always thought that copying the Golden Gate bridge model would work well on the Hawthorne. the north side for peds, the south side for bikes(or vice versa depending on hours. at least for high commute summertime)

Donna
Guest
Donna

Joe – how would that work on the Hawthorne with the one-way streets that it feeds and dumps onto?

Russell
Guest
Russell

Alexis, nice post. Don’t let the cyclarti keep you from commuting.

jake
Guest
jake

have you ever noticed that anyone riding slower than you is an idiot and anyone riding faster is insane?